IT looks like the winds of changes are coming into the tourism world.
Too bad though that the same winds have been refused entry into the local world of sports with recent developments, but then, this time, it will be me as a tourism travel writer speaking and not as the usual sportswriter.
Having been acknowledged as one who dabbles in travel writing, now I get regular invitations from the Department of Tourism (DOT) to some of its events.
One of them came my way last Tuesday as together with other colleagues, I went to Taal Vista Hotel in Tagaytay for the well-attended 3rd CALABARZON Tourism Summit organized by Regional Director Rebecca Labit of Region IV-A, an old friend in tourism though younger than me.
The event’s theme was Moving Towards Diversity, Innovation, and Sustainability, today’s buzz worlds even in the corporate world, and indeed , with the rapid changes happening worldwide, the tourism world has to respond and respond well and fast to these changes that have resulted to emerging markets, travelers with different lifestyles and always in search of something new and varied demands.
Gone are the days that tourists will be satisfied with going to a beach resort and just swim and enjoy the sun.
The elements of fun and inter-action and new experiences have become important components in today’s travelers and the Philippines has been moving towards these directions.
I remember before when the target for so long was to reach 5 million visitors, and this was the time when Sabah alone in Malaysia had been getting around 7 million tourists already and Thailand was hitting around 25 million, that was how far behind we were.
Now we have breached the 5 million mark and if the new DOT policy guidelines and directions for the department are to be followed to the hilt, then five years from now we should be at the 12 million visitors milestone already.
And that is why I was happy upon hearing the changes that the DOT people at the helm announced at the summit with Usec. Alma Rita Jimenez, a former private sector practitioner and now the Usec. for Tourism regulation, coordination, and resource generation, explaining the shifts adopted by the DOT. Being a believer in using metrics to set and monitor objectives, she said that figures should be used to show clearly the status of different programs like in terms of tourism arrivals complete with the necessary details.
The challenge for tourism stakeholders , according to her, is to go beyond the traditional and the need to be creative and innovative to attract local and international travelers.
I noted that like me, she is doing away with motherhood statements in setting objectives and one of the areas that I welcome the change is the adoption of a progressive accreditation process for tourism establishments like hotels, lodging places, and restaurants.
Before, the criteria to be met were cast in stone regardless of where the establishments s were located , an example would be the requirement for a parking area, but then for small establishments in the provinces that have long been there way before these guidelines were issued, they simply do not have the space to set up a parking area, after all a lot of their guests come in tricycles.
Now, only the basic things need to be met by establishments at the first level, then as they improve on their facilities.
Most establishments now cater more to the millennials who in fairness is a lucrative market with their never-ending desire to travel, discover and experience new destinations and being able to post them on line for other people to see and envy, but Jimenez pointed out that the other markets like the seniors, retired who have both the time and the money to travel, should not be taken out of the equation.
Also, DOT will try to create a better climate for tourism investments and increase the number of stakeholders, this is particularly needed in the number of rooms to be needed as tourism arrivals increase yearly.
Having some experience in business planning, I asked Jimenez how DOT can guarantee that all these new plans and programs will come into fruition, for I have long realized that the easy part is always the planning, the hard part is in the implementation.
Talking of looking ahead, I also had a chance to meet Cesar Mamon, president and CEO of Enchanted Kingdom, the same guy I know who was actively involved before in the horse racing industry.
He shared the theme park’s expansion plans of doubling up its developed area, including building family and business hotels and convention sites.
This year, the park will introduce its newest additional attraction, a 4D ride all over the Philippines.
This is a chance to see both the popular and new tourism destinations using footages from the 30 hours of aerial photography and video that Enchanted Kingdom invested on as its way of contributing to the tourism promotion.
I hope the plan to invite the media before the formal opening to the public of Agila, that’s the name of this new attraction of the park, pushes through as promised by Mamon and Director Labit.
That ‘s it for the tourism side, Now, just my five cents’ worth of talk about the latest development regarding the POC election following the disqualification anew of Ricky Vargas by the POC’s COMELEC and ensuring that Peping will have no opponents in the forthcoming election.
By the way, among the victims in this situation was POC Chairman Tom Carrasco who was also found ineligible to run again, Sen. Sonny Angara has already called for a Senate inquiry on the case.
From what I read, it covers the supposedly unliquidated funds given by the PSC to POC amounting to P129M and the way the POC set up its qualifying guidelines for the POC chairman and president positions.
Now, I am sure that Peping and his group will protest against this government intervention into POC matters and will cite the POC’s independence from the government.
Well, maybe except for accepting funds from the PSC that is, and I will agree with him that the IOC will look at this as indeed an unwanted intervention by the government.
The risk for us is that the Philippines gets suspended by the IOC and this means we cannot join the Asian Games and the Olympic Games which both fall under the IOC.
This is what I mean that in the end, it will always be the athletes who will get caught in the crossfire when politics rear its ugly head in sports.
Now what needs to be done and what will happen, honestly, I do not know.